Being Visionless

fog

Today is a very mild day, for deep winter, and there’s a thick fog.

I can’t see my neighbor’s house or driveway, and the detail on all the trees has faded into a blur.

The damp is penetrating.

This is the latest in a number of grey, cloudy, colorless days. Nature is resting.

When it is like this, my vision is obscured. I can’t see much, and what I can see is blurred. Much of what I can see is a dull monotone.

This is a good reflection of how I am feeling: very quiet, and like it is time to rest.

I can’t see much in the way of a vision for my business right now. It feels like it is growing and changing, but the details are unformed at the moment.

As a professional coach, I live and work in a world that says that we “must” have a vision. Part of what I do as a coach is help my clients clarify their life and work visions.

As an owner of my own business, I am told by business professionals that it is essential to have a vision, for my business, for content that I publish, for social media engagement, and for a whole host of other things.

I agree that it is desirable to have a vision. Visions can be compelling and motivating.

However, sometimes there isn’t a vision to be seen or clarified. Sometimes the vision isn’t ready to be revealed yet. Like the dense fog outside, in time, clarity will re-emerge. What is called for in these times is patience.

Wisdom tells me that visions aren’t made; they reveal themselves from our deeper wisdom.

Whatever vision is needed for me will emerge when it is needed, from a space of listening within.

My challenge is to refrain from pushing on it. I don’t like being in fog, literal or metaphoric. I often try to do something to get out of it.

The fog is the wisdom, today. It’s telling me that while things are unclear in the moment, in good time, the fog will lift, and what I need to know will become clear.

What is foggy for you right now? What if you waited until the fog lifts?

 

 

Coyote Chorus

winter 2015 thirteen

It is a pitch-black midnight, with a crescent moon. I am out on the property with Harper the Dog for his last constitutional of the night.

Suddenly we hear a loud, piercing chorus of screaming, howling, and yipping.

The pack of about fifteen coyotes is down by the road and moving in our direction.

The first time I heard a whole pack of coyotes in close proximity, I learned what people mean when they say that the hairs stood up on the back of their neck.

Even now, a slight chill goes down my spine, and a bit of panic rises in my throat.

I often have this primal fear reaction when I hear the coyotes.

I take a breath, and settle down. I remember that I have never actually seen the pack, even though they have lived in our immediate vicinity for years. Once in a while, I see a solitary coyote at dawn or dusk, and they always keep to themselves. They avoid human contact.

I calmly walk Harper to the house, and we go inside.

I always believe that there is meaning for me in these close encounters with wildlife.

I thought about spirit’s message for me in hearing the coyotes so close tonight.

This interpretation seemed to fit for me: “Coyote Spirit Animal appears for you when you seem to have lost your way. Coyote animal speaks of the path less traveled, of the path that is hidden from plain view – as this is where you will find you way to the answers you seek. Solutions come in unexpected ways, and coyote is your trusted guide on this mysterious path.”

I have always chosen the path less traveled, and I am often in need of an intuitive, unseen guide on that uncommon path. Having read this interpretation, I now take comfort from our close encounter with the coyotes on this night. I am reminded that I need only meditate and tune into my intuition to sense the answers that I need in any moment.

What are your unseen guides, on your path?

In Pure Folly

ice storm

Today, the weather forecast is less than ideal.

Some tidbits from the National Weather Service Winter Storm Warning:

  • Sleet with possibly some brief snow, changing to freezing rain
  • Significant ice accumulation on walkways, roads, power lines, and trees
  • Sustained gale force winds with gusts as high as 65 mph
  • All of this “potentially resulting” in “significant power outages”, falling trees and tree limbs, and “making travel very hazardous or impossible.”
  • And, if you must drive (they always say something to this effect, like we would be complete fools to even consider such a thing), people with high profile vehicles are going to get pushed around. A lot. Not to mention sliding around on the ice.

In other words, it is a day when our ancestors would have never even considered leaving their caves.

I am bemused at my response to the warning.

Initially, I’m reluctant to admit that I won’t be able to have the day that I had planned.

My tendency to try to get things done anyway is so strong that at first I waste a lot of energy visualizing how I will get the things done that I had originally planned to do anyway, now accounting for the weather conditions.  As if anything that I had planned to do was absolutely essential to life.

When that proves to be obvious folly, even then, I don’t just give into it. I begin a round of triage in my mind: “Well, I can’t get X done, but what can I still do (without endangering life and limb)?” And without being able to set foot outside, or without electricity.

This is a ridiculous reaction.

In my defense, I think this is, at least in part, a tribal reaction. We Midwesterners are a tough lot. We don’t let a little weather get in our way.

And, in our Western culture in general, we are taught to “find a way” to get stuff done, no matter what.

But, really?

Something bigger than a busted plan is going on here. Whatever happened to going with the flow of life? Or, sitting with the question “What is it time for?”,  before I start my day?

This is a wake up call, and it is some good feedback for me, about the paradigm of living that I still occasionally allow myself to get sucked into.

I can choose a different way. I am obviously not in charge of conditions, but I am in charge of my response to the conditions, and of how I choose to come to my life.

For a while now, I have had a practice of centering myself and meditating before I begin my day. In this clear, spacious state of presence, I allow my inner wisdom to inspire me as to the priorities and activities of the day.

My deeper wisdom takes into account the bigger picture. It sees with clarity. It is in touch with my well-being and the well-being of others. It knows the true priorities.

This morning, I forgot. This is always astonishing to me, that I can forget something that I have practiced for weeks and months, and that I know is utterly important to me. But, I did. I forgot.

I forgot that I don’t plan my days anymore. I forgot that I am committed to discerning my day’s activities, and in receiving the day’s priorities. And I reverted back to this very old behavior that just doesn’t serve me.

So, right now, I am going to choose. I’m going to be really grateful for this wake-up call. I’m going to sit in peace and discern the way forward. And, I am going to be compassionate with myself for forgetting; that’s important, too.

Where have you, in your life, unconsciously drifted away from the way that you want to be?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ditching High Expectations

jenkner barn dusk

The last two weeks have been crammed with significant dates: Winter Solstice, Christmas Eve, Christmas (and all the sacred celebrations of religions other than Christianity), New Year’s Eve and, tomorrow, New Year’s Day.

A few years ago, in response to my disgruntlement with the commercial aspects of Christmas, I wiped the slate clean on all of these holidays.

I chucked all cultural, religious, and familial expectations about what each of these dates means, or should mean, for me.

I pitched all traditional celebrations of them, including everything that I had ever done to celebrate them.

I started from scratch and charged myself with the responsibility of discerning for myself what each of these passages means for me, literally, symbolically, and spiritually.

I clarified how I personally wanted to celebrate them, in keeping with what they meant to me. I created rituals to mark the passage of each of them in a way that has deep personal meaning for me.

Several interesting things happened as I opted out of all the traditional expectations and celebrations.

One thing was that I didn’t miss the celebrations. I felt cleansed. Over years and years, layers and layers of Shoulds and Oughts had accumulated around these holidays. These were things that I just accepted, unquestioningly, and things that I did every year, just because I had always done them.

I was largely unconscious of the weight that I felt about these obligations and commitments, many of which I had never chosen consciously. They had just accumulated incrementally over the years.

I was scrubbed clean. The energies of delight, mystery, and awe flowed again. There was a fresh innocence that I felt again during this time of year.

Another thing that happened was that I no longer had any expectations for any particular outcome for any of these dates. While each of them held meaning for me, I didn’t count on them being exciting or life-changing in any way. This was very freeing.

The last thing that happened was probably the most significant, for me. I realized that while these dates do have personal significance and meaning for me, they are also “just” another date on the calendar. Every day is a miracle, if we choose to live that way.

Every day is a threshold and a passage, and every day is an opportunity to live with meaning and celebration. It doesn’t take a traditional date for this to be the case. It already is.

How can we live as if each day is a miracle?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where Do We Belong?

house with lights too

The wind died down at sunset, and it is a cloudy but very warm December night, at 40 degrees F. I still haven’t gotten used to the pitch-black darkness coming so early, at 4:30 pm, so I’m late getting off on my walk again tonight.

My dog Harper and I head east down our road, for a quarter of a mile, where there is a little neighborhood with some Christmas lights. There are very few lights of any kind on our road, and this will give us a bit of illumination to walk by.

I love looking at the Christmas lights. They evoke such a feeling of cheer for me, especially in December, when the days are so short. This instinct to bring more light into our world, at a time of relative darkness, feels very primal to me.

There are twelve houses in the neighborhood, more than there are on our whole three-mile road. Everyone recognizes us because we walk here frequently, and we know quite a few of people who live here. It feels good to have a sense of belonging in this place.

I often think about what it means to belong, and how important it is to feel like we belong.

I live in a sparse, rural area, by choice. I have a big independent streak in me, and I am also part hermit. Freedom and isolation support my inner life. I thrive here.

But it is also important for me to feel a sense of belonging where I live. In 1985, when I found the five acres on which I live, it felt like coming home. It is a rolling, wooded land, filled with old oaks, and I felt an immediate kinship with the land. I knew that is where I belonged.

I do belong here. I belong to the land, and I belong in the community. I have only a few neighbors, but I know they are here for me, and I for them. We support each other. We have a feeling camaraderie here.

Tonight I am filled up by the feeling of belonging here, as I walk in the darkness, and as I savor the lights.

Where do you belong?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rituals That Mark Time

November bare treesOn Halloween morning, it snowed. Then high winds blew all the oaks clean, and left no doubt that it was November.

So, over the weekend, I did some of my preparing-for-winter rituals. It was time.

These are simple things like covering up the air conditioner unit and clearing everything off the screened porch. Some of you may rake leaves or stack wood.

Rituals are really important. They mark the movement of time, and for me, they help me embrace change, if I do them intentionally and consciously. By that I mean that instead of just putting it on my To Do list, and getting it done, checking it off, I think about how it is marking the end of the warmer weather and moving into the shorter days and cooler times.

These simple rituals are particularly helpful to me when I’m going through big changes in my life.

Doing rituals like this gives me some stability and routine, or ritual, in my world that is shifting.

What are the rituals that mark your time?

The Land of Not Knowing

shifting sandsA friend and I were talking about what it’s like to be in Not Knowing, to be in a change in your life that’s so foundational that you aren’t sure who you are in it.

For me it feels like I’m walking on shifting ground. Like I’ve lost my footing and lost what it feels like to be sure-footed.

I know that it’s all part of the process, and I certainly have learned that I don’t want to push it, push new understandings, push knowing, push the process of change forward. That would be inorganic and would only come back to bite me later.

What we came to was to pay attention to what feels alive, even if it is a relatively quiet time. That we could still find the life force: the energy or inspiration or idea that feels most alive, and follow it.  And see where it leads.

This requires curiosity and a lack of judgement or pre-formed assumptions. It requires self-compassion and kindness towards ourselves.

It’s not passive, or demanding things be solved, or figuring it out. It’s actively engaged with life, just in a different mode than when you have high clarity about who you are and where you are going.

And then there’s containers and structures and keeping the channel open, but more about all of that on another day.

How do you be in Not Knowing Land?

What’s Your Sustainable Model of Personal Energy?

personal energy flowsWe used to have a low-producing well for the water supply at our house. If we had a drought, and I needed to water the garden, there was insufficient water. I would set a hose and let it run for an hour or two, and the well would run dry. Then we would need to wait for the natural water table to replenish the supply in the well, so that we would have sufficient water to service the house.

This clearly wasn’t a sustainable model of water supply.

However, this was also my model of personal energy for many years.

I’d work really hard until I depleted all of my energy reserves, and then I’d collapse and need to rest until my energy supply filled back up again.

I wasn’t very good at sensing the leading indicators, either, so I often wasn’t aware that I was running on fumes until it was too late to turn it around.

This obviously isn’t a sustainable (or intelligent!) model of personal energy, but with the high level of commitments that so many of us have these days, it isn’t uncommon, either.

We eventually drilled a new well at the house, and we haven’t run out of water since. This well taps into a deep source of ground water that sustains the supply at a healthy level at all times.

It suddenly occurred to me that this metaphor could be useful for those of us who are searching for a sustainable model of personal energy.

What if we each knew the sources of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical energies that keep us supplied, at a healthy level, at all times? And then, of course, we need to allow those sources to keep us sustained.

Here are some examples of my best sources. I think they will be different for every person:

  • Spiritual energy: meditation is my best source, by far
  • Mental energy: having a challenging creative project
  • Emotional energy: for most people, this may be the emotional support they receive from close friends. While this is true for me, too, I’m very introverted, and my best source of emotional energy is my connection with nature. Nature just makes me feel good.
  • Physical energy: lifting weights, and adequate sleep

What are your best sources? What would the impact be, in your life, if you allowed those sources to keep your energy well-supplied and sustained?

 

I’m a Pilgrim in an Unknown Territory

eastern box turtleWhat if life is always showing us who we are to be, and where we are to go, but I’ve already written the script, so I miss it?

Today I’m playing with the idea that there is support for us everywhere if we only have the Emptiness to see it.

What does Emptiness have to do with it? Everything. Emptiness is willingness, openness, receptivity.

It’s like being the empty bowl rather than the one that is so full that there is no room for anything new or surprising to come in.

Today, when Harold and I went out with the dogs to take a walk, there was an Eastern Box Turtle on the driveway. I’ve lived here for almost 30 years, and I’ve never seen a turtle on the property, so this really got my attention.

It is a beauty, as you can see from the photo. It’s a male, with red eyes.

When we returned from our walk, it was gone.

I began asking myself: What if Life is reflecting to me just what I need to know, rather than me having to figure it all out?

Turtle, what are you telling me? What do I need to know?

I became quiet, clear, and receptive. I respected this miracle and became willing to Not Know what it was showing me.

Here is what I received: “That you are secure and grounded. Trust your stability. Take your life a little more slowly, and maintain a sure footing. Take one step at a time.”

When I created a clear space within, these words just flowed into my awareness. It was just what I needed to hear today.

I’ve had a lot of practice Not Knowing. It is one of the things we life coaches honor and respect and aspire to.

But it never comes easy to me. I always seem to have that feeling that I’m responsible to know: who I am, where I am going, how I will get there. I’m always a bit uncomfortable Not Knowing.

Today, though, Turtle showed me that just maybe Life is always conspiring to assist me on my path. That the answers emerge from the clear, receptive space of Not Knowing. That I will be shown.

What if this is true for you, too?

The Presence of Love

done in loveI love this quote by Vincent van Gogh.

To do something in love, for me, means that I must slow down from my normal pace and feel my love for what I am doing. I consciously come into the presence of love. My heart often has a different rhythm than my doing self.

This is why I appreciate van Gogh’s quote so much. It reminds me to come into the presence of love.

When I come into the presence of love, I do things well, and with love.

And then I see things differently. I catch other people’s love, because I’m tuned into love.

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